The Yayoi people (弥生人 Yayoi jin) were an ancient ethnic group that migrated to the Japanese archipelago mainly from the East Asian continent during the Yayoi period (300 BCE–300 CE). They interacted and mixed with the Jōmon people to form the modern Japanese people. Most modern Japanese people have primarily Yayoi ancestry (over 80% genetic contribution, in average about 90%).
There are several hypotheses about the origin of the Yayoi people:
- The most popular theory is that they were the people who brought wet rice cultivation to Japan from the Korean peninsula and Jiangnan near the Yangtze River Delta in ancient China. This is supported by archeological researches and bones found in today southeastern China.
- Another view is that they are from the northern part of the Korean peninsula. This is because the human bones of the Doigahama ruins resemble the ancient human bones of the northern part of the Korean peninsula, and pottery is similar to the "Engraved band sentence pottery", that is widely used during the Yayoi period and was also discovered in the Sini-Gai culture in the southwestern coastal province of Primorskaya Oblast.
- The theory that Yayoi people have multiple origins has also been suggested and is influential.
- The historian Ann Kumar presented genetic and linguistic evidence that some of the Yayoi people were of Austronesian origin. According to several Japanese historians, the Yayoi and their ancestors, the Wajin, originated in the today Yunnan province in southern China. Suwa Haruo considered Wa-zoku (Wajin) to be part of the Baiyue (百越).
The Yayoi were present on large parts of the Korean Peninsula before they were displaced and assimilated by arriving proto-Koreans. Similarly Whitman (2012) suggests that the Yayoi are not related to the proto-Koreans but that they were present on the Korean peninsula during the Mumun pottery period. According to him, Japonic arrived in the Korean peninsula around 1500 BCe and was brought to the Japanese archipelago by the Yayoi at around 950 BCe. The language family associated with both Mumun and Yayoi culture is Japonic. Koreanic arrived later from Manchuria to the Korean peninsula at around 300 BCe and coexist with the descendants of the Japonic Mumun cultivators (or assimilated them). Both had influence on each other and a later founder effect diminished the internal variety of both language families.
It is estimated that Yayoi people mainly belonged to Haplogroup O-M176 (O1b2) (today ~36%), Haplogroup O-M122 (O2, formerly O3) (today ~23%) and Haplogroup O-M119 (O1) (today ~4%), which are typical for East- and Southeast-Asians. Mitsuru Sakitani suggests that haplogroup O1b2, which is common in today Koreans, Japanese and some Manchu, and O1 are one of the carriers of Yangtze civilization. As the Yangtze civilization declined several tribes crossed westward and northerly, to the Shandong peninsula, the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese archipelago. One study calls haplogroup O1b1 as a major Austroasiatic paternal lineage and the haplogroup O1b2 (of Koreans and Japanese) as a "para-Austroasiatic" paternal lineage.
The modern Yamato people are predominantly descendants of the Yayoi people and closely related to other modern East Asians, particularly Koreans and Han Chinese. It is estimated that the majority of Japanese people around Tokyo have about 12% Jōmon ancestry or less. The general estimate for mainland Japanese is they have inherited less than 20% of the Jōmon genome.
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